Football: Magpies survive the threat of Ginola

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Newcastle United 1
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The Independent Online
THIS YEAR'S FA Cup may be lacking the holders, but the two clubs with 14 wins between them are still in the draw for the fourth round. A hectic and full-blooded tie at White Hart Lane, the sixth meeting between these opponents in the tournament's history, ended in a fair share, Steffen Iversen's 57th-minute goal for Tottenham neutralised by Gary Speed's equaliser 11 minutes from time.

The winners of Wednesday week's replay will go on to face either Sheffield United or Rushden & Diamonds at home. The prospect of a meeting between either of these Cup giants and the Vauxhall Conference side holds out a promise of the sort of magic that has characterised the competition throughout the century.

The Football Association may have done its best, in as many ways as they can think of, to diminish the stature of their showpiece, but the events on this pitch and others around the country at the weekend showed that the Cup can survive the most cack-handed administration so long as the players retain their belief in its importance.

Of the two managers, George Graham was the only one disappointed with yesterday's result. Tottenham comprehensively bossed the first half, and their supremacy should have produced more goals, even though all their chances came from a single source. David Ginola, the game's individual star, revelled in the opportunity to inflict further damage on his old club.

Roaming on either side of Steffen Iversen, he was creating havoc as early as the seventh minute, when he picked up the ball 35 yards from goal and clipped a shot which Steve Harper tipped over the bar.

Bobby Robson had deputed Laurent Charvet to shadow Ginola, and the confrontation between the shaven-headed citizen and the laughing chevalier looked like a replay of the French Revolution in miniature. After a quarter of an hour Ginola slid a wonderful ball inside Alessandro Pistone to Ruel Fox, whose cross brought a wonderful clearance from Warren Barton at the far post.

The partnership of Alan Shearer and Duncan Ferguson rarely suggested the existence of a genuine entente between the two strikers, although Ferguson should have given Newcastle the lead a minute into the second half when he found space between Sol Campbell and Luke Young on the edge of the six-yard box but could only meet Robert Lee's long cross with a header which hit the ground and bounced over the bar.

"Ferguson said he was unsighted when the ball came over Campbell," Robson said. "He normally scores from those with his eyes closed." In the event, that might have been a better option for the big Scot.

Ten minutes later, Ginola's efforts paid off. Taking Luke Young's throw- in on the right, he turned to face Charvet, shifted his weight to make a yard of space, and whipped in a right-footed cross which Iversen met at the near post with a header that left Harper helpless.

Robson's decision to take off a forward, Ferguson, and a defender, the Portuguese international Helder, and replace them with two attackers after 64 minutes started to change the balance of play. Stephen Glass and Kevin Gallacher began to make inroads, and when they were joined by Temuri Ketsbaia, replacing the busy Keiron Dyer, the Spurs defence began to rock.

It was no surprise when, after 78 minutes, Speed made a late run to meet Glass's inswinging corner from the right after 78 minutes.

Asked if his side had been the victim of complacency, Graham gave a disbelieving laugh. "Us, complacent? I don't think so," he said.

"Considering the number of changes we had to make through suspensions and injuries, I thought we played some nice football. I was delighted with the performance, but not the result. We dominated the first half, but we've got to learn to finish teams off."

Relieved at having avoided ejection from two cup competitions within a few days, Robson was pleased by the way his players had recovered from their unstinting but unavailing efforts against Roma in the Uefa Cup last Thursday. "We pulled this one out of the fire," he said. "Steve Harper made two miraculous saves in the first half. They kept us in the game. And Ginola did what he will always do. You're not going to stop him getting in two or three crosses. But I said to Laurent Charvet before the start, `Ginola can be the man of the match, or you can be'. And he did a stout job for us."

A good, honest FA Cup tie, then, firmly in the best tradition. But someone, somewhere should be worried by the fact that, for a fixture of such historical resonance and topical significance, there were 4,000 empty seats.

Goals: Iversen (57) 1-0; Speed (77) 1-1.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-1-3-2): Walker; Young, Perry, Campbell, Edinburgh (Vega, 81); Freund; Fox, Nielsen, Dominguez (Armstrong, 81); Ginola, Iversen. Substitutes not used: Clemence, Glove, Baardsen (gk).

Newcastle United (1-4-2-1-2): Harper; Dabizas; Barton, Charvet, Helder, Pistone; Lee, Speed; Dyer (Ketsbaia, 76); Shearer, Ferguson (Gallacher, 64). Substitutes not used: Glass, Hughes, Given (gk).

Referee: G Poll (Tring).

Bookings: Tottenham: Nielsen, Freund. Newcastle: Helder.

Man of the match: Ginola.

Attendance: 33,116.